All that talk about bills dying that didn’t make it to crossover day? That’s the 101 level course of Gold Dome politics. The Masters level courses are all about the final days of the session. Legislators see long hours and a blitzkrieg of bills, amendments, committee meetings, and this year, a state funeral.
There’s a lot going on. It can be confusing. And to quote Sun-Tzu as interpreted by the movie “Operation Petticoat: In confusion, there is profit.
The conventional wisdom to get casino gaming into Georgia would be to get a constitutional amendment through both houses, go before the voters, get enabling legislation passed, etc. That’s what quite a few of the largest international gaming firms have done over the past few years. They’ve been open. They’ve been transparent. They’ve been clear about asking Georgia’s Legislature, then the voters, about changing Georgia’s laws to specifically allow for casino gaming.
In exchange, if approved, the casinos would bring over $2 billion in private construction investment. They would hire tens of thousands of Georgians, they would contribute roughly one in five dollars of their revenues directly to Georgia’s tax coffers. They would do all of this without asking for a dime of economic development incentives.
That’s the offer that has been on the table. An open, direct, and transparent offer.
Then, there’s the other offer to Georgians that lurks and occasionally makes a public appearance. It’s one that is rooted in Georgia’s loophole that establishes the Georgia Lottery Corporation to operate games of chance. Years ago, there was a proposal to turn Underground Atlanta into a “casino”. Not a destination resort $2 Billion casino that is designed to draw tourist and convention business from out of state. A glorified video parlor that would likely be aimed directly at those who can likely least afford the losses in a quest to win big.
This path is paved with the premise that a new constitutional amendment isn’t needed. It would only require a vote of the Georgia Lottery Commission Board. It’s not a settled legal conclusion, but some capitol observers believe a bill several years ago expanding GLC’s oversight of gas station prize games codified their right to operate/oversee video casino parlors.
Now comes word that language is being shopped for a suitable vehicle to create a “Georgia Gaming Commission”. This entity would be able to select and place an operator or operators of casinos. Having neither seen this proposed bill nor talked to anyone directly related to it, I can’t state for certain what it does, other than fit the pattern. It seems to be preparing the tracks to have everything in place for a new Governor.
The “new Governor” part is significant because Governor Deal stopped the Underground Casino idea before it got too far down the planning stage. He’s been frosty at best toward any casino gaming. Thus, Plan B has lied dormant while the open and transparent process has lacked the 2/3 votes needed from both House and Senate.
Plan B only needs a majority – and a suitable bill ready to pass in the next 2 days.
Casino gaming remains a controversial topic in Georgia. If we’re going to have it, we first need the people to say they want it.
Then, most importantly, it needs to be done right. We don’t need lower end video parlors. If this is the road to be taken, it needs to be one driven in daylight, with the maximum return to state taxpayers and job seekers.